Life Long Group Participation Leads To Increased Cognitive Function
Recent studies have revealed that to improve our cognitive function being party of a social, sport, voluntary or even political group can improve cognitive function for people when they hit 50 years of age. The research involved a cross section of people from England, Scotland and Wales which amounted to 9119 participants and the results were published in the BMC Psychology open access journal.
A team of researchers from the University of Southampton (UK) deduced that for a person’s cognitive function to be optimal at age 50 meant that from the ages of 11 and 33 they must have participated in civic activities during throughout their lives.
It means that to be born in to a lower socioeconomic status as a child and having no participation in groups throughout their life lead to worsening cognitive function and mental well-being at age 50.
Lead research, Professor Ann Bowling comments that continued social engagement over the participant’s lifetime requires a maintenance of behaviour that requires cognitive skills such as memory, attention and control of which can protect against cognitive decline.
However, while being beneficial, adult only social engagement did not yield the same results, in fact the protection against cognitive decline for this group was moderate.
The research team suggest that public health policy should encourage civic engagement and provide ample opportunities to do so to help protect people as they age.
There have been previous studies which suggested that better social engagement, interaction and strong social networks have been associated with improved mental well-being, overall mental health notwithstanding reduced stress levels and a reduction in loneliness and feelings of isolation.
However, the previous studies had not followed participants throughout their lifetime.
The study showed that age 33, 83% of all participants reported that they didn’t participate in any civic organization. However, by age 50, participation grew. In fact participation at age 33 was just 14% whereas it was 25% at age 50.
Cognitive tests showed that those participants who were involved in civic groups scored higher than those who were not. Furthermore, if the participants were involved in more groups this scores improved also.